W.A. Dwiggins & Charles Skaggs' Work

New York publisher Alfred A. Knopf was an early patron of Skaggs’, who worked for him for fifteen years designing books, bindings, and book jackets. Through Knopf, Skaggs worked closely with W.A. Dwiggins, who had evolved the company’s “house style” in the 1930s. They worked together, and as Dwiggins’ health failed, Skaggs often completed Dwiggins’ roughly sketched designs.

Letter - Sidney Jacobs to Charles Skaggs


Sidney R. Jacobs
Typed letter, signed. November 18, 1953

This letter from Sidney Jacobs of the publishing firm Alfred A. Knopf refers to the sketch by W.A. Dwiggins (dated the day before) for a new Borzoi device for Knopf’s series of college textbooks. Dwiggins included notes for Skaggs, who would refine and complete the design, since Dwiggins’ failing health prevented him from executing the final drawing and lettering. Jacobs explains the device at the bottom of the sketch: “Pity the Blind—is Dwig’s dry comment on the fact that he ran into a twig and apparently injured one eye quite severely. But apparently the other eye is in good enough shape so that he can get some work done.”

Borzoi Books logo sketch

Of Plymouth Plantation

Of Plymouth Plantation - original design

William Bradford
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1952

Dwiggins hand-lettered the book jacket design for this work. The book jacket reproduces that lettering as well as using Caslon type, as specified by Dwiggins in the sketch.

Of Plymouth Plantation - published jacket
Willa Cather - cover

Willa Cather: A Critical Biography

E.K. Brown
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1953

The two sketches for the binding design for this book are by W.A. Dwiggins. Charles Skaggs probably completed these designs, since there is a note on one of them by Dwiggins: “help from Skaggs.” The spine has faded on the green cloth binding.

Willa Cather - cover sketch
Willa Cather - spine sketch

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